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Postponed Turkey arms deal exposes barriers

By Pu Zhendong | China Daily | Updated: 2013-11-01 07:17

Beijing says Western resistance blocking exports of missile defense systems

The possible termination of a missile sale with Turkey shows the difficulty for Beijing to expand its global arms exports in the face of enormous resistance from the West, observers said.

Reportedly under huge pressure from the United States and NATO, Turkey on Tuesday extended the bidding for its purchase of an intermediate and long-range air-defense missile system to Jan 31, which observers said basically closed the possibility of cooperation between Beijing and Ankara.

In September, the NATO member announced talks were underway between Ankara and Beijing over a co-production arrangement of a Chinese missile defense system. The $3.44 billion deal with the China Precision Machinery Export-Import Corp surprised many and strained relations between Turkey and its NATO allies.

The FD-2000 missile defense system CPMIEC prevailed over rival systems from Franco/Italian Eurosam SAMP/T and US firm Raytheon Co. Turkish officials said China offered the best price as well as co-production arrangements.

Experts said Turkey's choice reflected warming ties between Ankara and Beijing in recent years and a growing track record of defense cooperation.

Su Hao, a professor of Asia-Pacific studies at China Foreign Affairs University, said Turkey, as a unique Islamic member of NATO, has its own considerations for national defense.

"In an aim to become a leader of the Arab world, Turkey always tries to differentiate itself from other NATO members. By purchasing missiles from China, Turkey would have displayed its connections with China, and reduced the risks of being bound by NATO," Su said.

"On a technical level, Chinese weapons are characterized by good quality and cheap prices," he added.

Nihat Ali Ozcan, an analyst at the Ankara-based think tank TEPAV, said Turkey and China are already cooperating on short-range missile defense systems. "Co-producing these systems requires technology transfers, and China has no restrictions on that," he said.

Citing concern for compatibility with missile and air defense systems, US ambassador to Turkey Francis Ricciardone said Washington has begun consultations with Turkey on the issue.

Li Hong, secretary-general of the China Arms Control and Disarmament Association, said the chances are now slim China and Turkey will seal the deal on a purchase, after Turkey extended the bidding deadline.

"It is difficult for NATO members to forge their own diplomatic and security policies," Li said. "Closeness in the security field between China and any NATO country is definitely unacceptable.

"The US and its allies have been keeping a close eye on China's weaponry exports. Economically, they are unwilling to share the weaponry export market with China," he said.

Urging all sides not to politicize the commercial competition of the deal, Chinese Defense Ministry Spokesman Yang Yujun said on Thursday that China has been responsible and prudent in terms of conducting military trade cooperation.

"China's arms exports neither endanger regional and global security, nor interfere with other countries' internal affairs," Yang said, adding that the volume of China's arms exports is still very limited.

"The amount of weapons China exports every year is only one-sixth that of the world's top arms exporter," Yang said. "Some countries should stop judging China through tinted glasses."

Experts said that the China-Turkey deal on missile cooperation was only "the tip of the iceberg" of China's fledging military industry.

Su, the expert, said China's low-price arms can meet developing countries' demands for national defense while the Turkey deal could have sharpened China's competitiveness in the global market.

"Its advertising effect may attract more countries to purchase qualified arms from China," Su said.

In March, the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute in Sweden said in a report that the volume of Chinese arms exports rose by 162 percent between 2008 and 2012, compared with the previous five-year period.

China's share of global weapons exports increased from 2 percent to 5 percent in that time, surpassing Britain to be the fifth-largest arms exporter. The US and Russia kept the largest share of the world's arms sales in the time period, with the US taking 30 percent and Russia 26 percent, the report said.

According to the institute, 55 percent of China's exports went to Pakistan, followed by Myanmar with 8 percent and Bangladesh with 7 percent.

In response, Chinese Foreign Ministry said China's arms exports are guided by three principles: "They must be helpful to the recipients' self-defense; they should not harm global and regional peace and stability; and they should not interfere with other countries' domestic affairs."

Experts said despite China's rising influence as an arms exporter, the country is still confronted with enormous challenges from Western countries when trying to tap a broader market.

"Some countries with powerful voices in the world simply defame China as an irresponsible country, simply because China adheres to the principle of non-interference in other countries' internal affairs," Li said.

"Also, the market for conventional weaponry, such as the Middle East, has been occupied by the US and Europe. Developing countries are also more often than not stuck in domestic or regional turmoil," he added.

Mo Jingxi contributed to this story.

 Postponed Turkey arms deal exposes barriers

Military vehicles at a parade to honor the 90th anniversary of the Republic of Turkey in Ankara on Tuesday. Turkey may cancel its plan to purchase a missile system from China after the country postponed its decision until January under pressure from the West. Li Ming / Xinhua

(China Daily 11/01/2013 page10)

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